Kimberly Even continued posing as a counselor even after the fatal heroin overdose of a young client.
An Illinois woman who faked her credentials as a drug and alcohol counselor has been sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Federal officials accused Kimberly Even, 53, of defrauding more than $200,000 from clients and insurance companies while posing as a certified drug and alcohol counselor for years.
Even had pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud in July—but her history of misdeeds dates back as far as 2002, according to the Chicago Tribune. Not only has she lied about her qualifications as a counselor more than once, Even also has a history of stealing credit cards.
Authorities aren’t sure how many clients Even has “treated” for drug and alcohol use disorder. But one client in particular, Chase Beh, illustrated the danger that Even put them through by lying about her background.
The young man was referred to Even’s clinic, North Shore Adolescent Recovery Center in Northfield, Illinois, by Evanston Hospital in the spring of 2009. According to his mother, Beh suffered from kidney disease and a failed kidney transplant, and because of that he found relief in “self-medicating” with cocaine and cannabis.
Even and Beh met twice a week. His mother said that she was a “major part of his treatment.”
But another employee at North Shore, Frank Ponziano, warned Even that Beh required more intensive, “high-level treatment” like detox or a halfway house. But Ponziano, who is certified as a drug and alcohol counselor, said that despite his advice, Even ignored him and maintained that “she was a drug counselor and a master’s level social worker with a degree.”
Beh died of a heroin overdose later that year, prompting Ponziano to file a complaint against Even with the state after looking into her background.
Prosecutors say that even after Beh’s death, Even continued to treat clients and fraudulently bill insurance companies.
According to the Tribune, the facility has since been shuttered by the state. Prosecutors say Even continued her practice even as she was being investigated.
“She put her patients at risk. These are people who needed treatment, who were at a horrible point in their life,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker, according to the Tribune.
Even apologized to the court, saying she has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that she is working on being “a better person.”
She explained that she was “in a hurry to open a treatment center.”
“I did it too quickly, and I made a lot of mistakes,” she said.
“I can’t imagine how she could have been in practice and no one looked into her credentials. I think what she did was unconscionable,” Beh’s mother, Christine, told the Tribune in 2012. “It’s a betrayal that I just think is unbelievable.”